OK, I say yes to Christmas, but I will play the devil’s advocate here, and lay out a case for not having Christmas. Bear with me!
Let’s say you don’t celebrate Christmas, or you’ve decided not to for the first time. There are lots of good reasons:
- Your faith tradition prohibits it
- You don’t want to participate in a Christian holiday
- You think Christians impose their beliefs on others at Christmas
- You think Christmas increases religious intolerance
- You think secular society has co-opted Christmas
- You don’t like being mocked for your Christian beliefs
- You don’t want to participate in a pagan holiday
- You reject commercialism and excess
- You can’t tolerate crowds
- You don’t like public money being spent on Christmas
- You feel that Christmas is being forced on you in public places
- You think Christmas is for kids, and you don’t have kids in your life
- You don’t want to fuss over Christmas if you are alone or there are “just two of you”
- You have no one to celebrate with
- You’ve had a run of bad life experiences lately and you just don’t feel like it
On the other hand, most people who would ordinarily celebrate Christmas, but are short on money, in poor health, away from loved ones, or have to work on Christmas, will celebrate anyway.
Obviously, Western society promotes the Christmas season and makes it easy to participate by:
- Making it an annual event on a fixed day, so it can be anticipated and planned for
- Declaring a government holiday, so many workplaces are closed; therefore people can gather more easily
- Arranging public school calendars around Christmas and Easter breaks
- Having a retail focus, so Christmas items are displayed prominently and can be purchased on sale
- Having a media focus, so that TV, movies and music are geared to a Christmas theme
All of these cultural supports (a.) favour Christmas as the holiday of the majority; and (b.) create a sense of belonging among those who celebrate.
Clearly, the same supports can create a feeling of disconnect or animosity among those who don’t do Christmas. Some of the factors are:
- People who celebrate other religious holidays are required to take vacation time to celebrate, and may not be given the day off because their business is open – work must go on.
- Non-Christian religious items are not displayed or available for sale. They can be expensive and hard to find.
- Non-Christian people are subjected to Christmas music, videos, and displays wherever they go; there is no ability to opt out at the grocery store or at the doctor’s office.
- Workplaces may offer free Christmas parties for employees and even their families, which are not offered at other times of year, and which may be awkward to skip because of their networking value. Work parties delayed until January to avoid Christmas connotations are usually seen as an extension of the Christmas holidays.
- Those who work on Christmas day, such as restaurant and hospital personnel, are expected to bring Christmas cheer to their co-workers and clients who are often celebrating at work.
- It is possible to avoid celebrating Christmas on December 25, only to find out when you arrive at a campground on July 25 that the entire site is celebrating Christmas in July!
- Children, in particular, are always asked “What did you get?” and are taunted for not having new “stuff.”
- Parents who buy their children what they need all year are accused of spoiling them, while those who provide heaps of gifts on Christmas day are seen as generous.
- People of all ages who don’t celebrate Christmas are accused of being grinches and are told they should be grateful for the day off.
- Many people from the dominant culture feel angry when those from other religious traditions don’t participate in Christmas, or speak out against Christmas being imposed on them. They feel that minorities are asking for special rights, or that they should simply assimilate.
If you have another religious affiliation, you can celebrate the holy days when they arise, assuming you can get time off work! For the non-religious who choose not to do Christmas, let’s look at the options.
December 25 for the non-participating:
- Hardcore: go to work! This may only be effective if you are self-employed or your business is open.
- Offer to work in place of colleagues who have Christmas commitments such as religious observance or travel
- Enjoy December 25 as you would any other day off
- If your favourite stores and businesses are closed, have a no-spend day with a walk in the woods, reading, crafting, creating YouTube videos, or watching TV
- Continue your routines such as training for a marathon or writing your novel
- Link up with other non-observers online and enjoy your day chatting
If you are Christian but want to de-escalate Christmas, some options are:
- Have a private religious observance in your home
- Participate in events planned by your faith community, and that’s all
- Decline gifts for yourself, and be very firm about it
- Negotiate with your extended family about how you’ll share Christmas this year
And for both religious and secular folks who don’t want to party on Christmas day:
- Spend time with the less fortunate at hospitals, nursing homes, shelters, prisons or soup kitchens
- Use your entire holiday or semester break to accomplish a major service project, such as working for Habitat for Humanity
- Look after a family member who needs continuous one-to-one care
- Donate to charities you support
It’s not just about December 25, though. If the whole concept of Christmas turns you off, you might want to come up with an actual plan to head off the Christmas season. In my next post, you’ll find a list of 20 alternatives to Christmas that ensure a full year of fun and fulfillment.